Hope lives on for families of missing after women in Cleveland found

Missing Women Found
A sign hangs on the porch of the home of Amanda Berry on Wednesday in Cleveland. Berry,  Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus had been held in a house since their teens or early 20s, police said. (Tony Dejak/AP)

Hope. It was in evidence at the walk I attended Sunday to honor Kara Kopetsky, 17 years old when she disappeared May 4, 2007 in Belton, Mo. Other parents of missing children were there, too, with buttons and fliers to spread the word about their own loved ones.

Hope was rewarded Monday for the families of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, each missing for around a decade, when the the trio was rescued after Berry escaped from a house in Cleveland.

Hope failed for the mother of Amanda Berry, though. In an emotionally wrenching story originally published March 5, 2006, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, reporter Regina Brett wrote about Louwana Miller’s efforts to keep her daughter in the news and how Miller died of heart failure.

“We knew better,” Brett wrote in a follow-up article published yesterday. “Louwana died of a broken heart.”

Miller’s health deteriorated after psychic Sylvia Browne told her that Amanda, or Mandy as she was called by her mom, had died on her birthday. How could Browne rob a mother of hope like that? Miller’s “final hope,” according to Brett, was to see her daughter in heaven.

Hope. The mother of Michelle Knight told the Cleveland Plain Dealer she never gave up hope for the daughter, who disappeared in 2002. The family apparently believed that Knight had left voluntarily, so she didn’t get media attention. But her mother, Barbara Knight, said the two were close and that her daughter wouldn’t disappear without a phone call, and so she hung fliers about her daughter’s disappearance on Cleveland’s west side.

Hope. For Rhonda Beckford, Kara Kopetsky’s mother, the word has a different meaning. She doesn’t think Kara is still alive, but she would like to know what happened to her, and she would like her daughter’s body recovered. She would like to have a funeral for her daughter, she told me Sunday, so she can say goodbye.

Hope. Greg and Missey Smith of Overland Park, Kan., held out hope from Saturday, June 2, 2007, until Wednesday, June 6, 2007, that their daughter Kelsey would be found alive. Instead, her body was located an hour after cellphone records were released.

Now they focus their hope on getting the Kelsey Smith Act passed through Congress. So far, it’s become law in 10 states, with Colorado to become the 11th as soon as the governor signs it. The Smiths hope that quicker access to cellphone records when a person is considered endangered will make rescue easier.

Hope. Mine is that people follow the example of Charles Ramsey, the hero of the day (who can’t help but love this guy?). He said he thought it was a “domestic violence dispute” — I’ve always heard that the police dread those calls — but Ramsey wasn’t afraid to get involved. He knew that girl was in trouble from the way she was screaming, and he stepped in. He could easily have walked away, saying it wasn’t his business.

But he didn’t.

Hope has been renewed and reenergized for others with missing family members. “It’s that hope — it’s that thread of hope,” said the mother of Jennifer and Adrianna Wix, who disappeared nine years ago in Cross Plains, Tenn.

Donna Ross, the mother of Jesse Ross, who disappeared in Chicago on a college field trip six and a half years ago, said she cried when she heard the news Monday about Cleveland. “It’s a reminder that our son is out there,” she told 41 Action News in Kansas City.

Hope has a double meaning for Doug and Mary Lyall, parents of Suzanne Lyall, who vanished from the New York University campus at Albany on March 2, 1998 — more than 15 years ago. They established the Center for HOPE: Healing Our Painful Emotions, to help the families of missing persons.

As Don Ross, the father of Jesse, said, “Every day is a new day and a new hope.”

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.

 

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.
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